Surprisingly SpontaneousBy Charlotte Downes -
As someone who likes to plan to the last detail and seek reassurance on every decision, it was a bold move to book a surprise holiday for my friend’s 21st birthday. I gave her a list of essentials to pack in a backpack and was frustratingly cryptic about everything else. It was even bolder to leave my decisions about our plans down to my friend when I announced our destination upon arrival at Luton airport.
We landed in Copenhagen and I went to withdraw currency with no idea how much I would need. I started to panic. The same went for finding our apartment. However, when we arrived at our Airbnb and Flo threw her arms round me in excitement, these worries dissipated.
On our first day we got the train through to Sweden (double surprise!) and enjoyed exploring Malmö. An expression I have stolen and choose to live by is that there is a difference between losing yourself and getting lost. Losing ourselves amongst the city’s parks, woods and beaches was the ultimate relaxation!
We didn’t know where we were going, so we couldn’t get lost, end up in the wrong place, or miss anything. Each time we spotted something unexpected we stopped to take photos and take in our discovery. Every turn offered a new sight, sound, or smell.
The city is a paradise for runners and cyclists, so it's also ideal with regards to accessibility. The roads and paths are wide, flat and even. All the parks are intersected with pathways which make it easy to explore. We got hideously lost on the way to the beach and sort of climbed over some dunes to get there. However, I'm sure there's an easier way...
As Malmö is not a particularly touristy city, there are only a handful of things to see and plenty of cheap places to stay right by them. Had our navigational skills not been so poor, we could have walked everywhere in 10 minutes - perhaps 20 for the beach.
Everywhere we explored was pedestrianised so we didn't go near the buses as I don't believe they would have been much use. Finding the right apartment is important but Airbnb will spoil you for choice.
On our second day, the weather was not as we anticipated and we abandoned any former plans in favour of a day at Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. The theme park seemed to be a real hub of city life and we enjoyed learning to read Danish as we sounded out everything written on the signs. We spoke to lots of different people in the queues and gained unique views of the city from high rise rides.
Our first impression of Copenhagen was that it was a beautiful city but was often upside down or spinning really fast...
We had a picnic in the gardens and were spoilt for choice for a place to eat dinner at the theme park. There were lots of themed stalls and some great quality theme park food. As we wandered around, we learnt that Wednesday night was Jazz Night. The atmosphere was one of anticipation for a great summer as we listened to the concert emanating from the band stand.
Tivoli Gardens was a lovely place to pass an afternoon and evening but entry is expensive if you can't make the most of the rides. There were a lot of stairs involved and not all the rides were suitable for me (which I only found out afterwards!). If you plan on visiting, I would recommend checking with the park themselves to see whether they accommodate for your individual requirements.
Our final day was devoted to Copenhagen. The centre is compact, flat and easy to explore. The little research I had done (printing out the government tourist pages for both cities) informed us of a great place for afternoon tea. We passed most of our time eating Smushi (some kind of Danish-open-sandwich-massive-canape-thing) and cake.
Flo found the Lego shop, we wound our way across to The Little Mermaid and finished our trip at Nyhavn. While the Little Mermaid statue is a bit out of the way, there are tour buses which take you right down to it. All I knew of Copenhagen previously was that the statue was a bit disappointing so I didn’t have high expectations. But in the sunshine, surrounded by blue sea, after an hour’s sunbathing with a book, I found it beautiful – a lovely conclusion to our adventures.
As we walked back towards the canal, we turned a corner to be greeted by the Danish Royal Guard. When I had recovered from the surprise, these impressively hatted gentlemen’s sudden appearance from nowhere was hilarious. We had thought we were just heading along residential streets, getting from A to B, but instead ended up at the castle with our very own Guard of Honour!
We took in Nyhavn over a bottle of wine, watching everyone enjoying the sunshine amongst the colourful boats. We discussed our short but jam packed holiday, finding it impossible to decide on the trip’s highlights.
This spontaneous visit was far from my usual fully-researched, well-planned holiday which would usually include itineraries, food plans and enough clothes to last me a month. It was a revelation! I felt entirely liberated and relaxed in a way I haven’t allowed myself to be in years. It was scary taking the plunge with this trip but by putting together a surprise for my friend, I also surprised myself.